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Ceremony held in Hawaii to accept the remains of fallen Korean s...

Ceremony held in Hawaii to accept the remains of fallen Korean soldiers… “The Republic of Korea, as a free country, will remember you.”

-Seven sets of remains of Korean soldiers, temporarily interred in Hawaii, were retrieved due to the joint efforts of South Korea and the United States
-Providing the highest military courtesy upon return to fulfil state’s precious responsibility

The South Korean repatriation team, led by the Vice Defense Minister, will bring home the remains of fallen Korean soldiers who died during the Korean War, after 73 years in Hawaii

On July 25 (local time, KST July 26, 06:00), in observance of the 70th Anniversary of the Armistice and the ROK-US Alliance, South Korean and US authorities held a ceremony at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii. The ceremony was to hand over the remains of fallen Korean soldiers. Vice Defense Minister Shin Beom-chul and Admiral John C. Aquilino, Commander of the United States Indo-Pacific Command, represented their respective countries.

Since 2012, including the current return of seven sets of remains, South Korea has received a total of 313 sets** of remains of Korean soldiers from the US authorities on seven separate occasions*. Of these, 19 sets of remains have been conclusively identified.
* Receipt of remains of Korean soldiers: first (2012, 12 sets), second (2016, 15 sets), third (July 2018, one set), fourth (September 2018, 64 sets), fifth (2020, 147 sets), sixth (2021, 68 sets), and seventh (2023, seven sets)
** One of the seven sets to be returned this time is part of remains that were returned in 2012, and it was excluded from the total number of remains repatriated.

In addition to the two representatives, Oh Yeong-dae, Director of Personnel Planning Bureau of the Defense Ministry, Lee Geun-won, MAKRI Director, Lee Seo- young, South Korean Consul General in Honolulu, Kelly K. McKeague, DPAA Director, Gen. Martine Kidd United Nations Command director of Logistics were in attendance. Local Korean War veterans also participated in the event. 

The handover ceremony began with memorial addresses by Vice Defense Minister Shin and Admiral Aquilino, representing the two countries. This was followed by the signing of a transfer and acceptance letter by the MAKRI director, DPAA director, and a representative of United Nations Command. Finally, the identified remains of the late Private First Class Choi Im-rak were handed over from the US to Korea through the UNC.

After the repatriation ceremony, the remains were placed in the passenger seats of a South Korean Air Force KC-330 multi-role tanker/transporter, extending the highest military courtesy to the heroes returning home after 73 years.

When the KC-330 departs from Hawaii with the remains and repatriation team onboard, the Defense Ministry and all military units in Korea will pay silent tribute to the fallen soldiers. On July 26, when the plane enters the KADIZ, it will be escorted by four ROKAF F-35A fighters. The plane will fly over Ulsan, the hometown of the late Choi, before arriving at Seoul Air Base.

Defense Ministry will receive the remains with the highest military honor as the transport plane arrives in Seoul Air Base.

Upon the completion of the ceremony, the seven sets of remains will be transported to MAKRI in Seoul National Cemetery, escorted on the ground by military police, under the supervision of the vice defense minister. Then Private First Class Choi's remains will be buried in the national cemetery and the rest six sets will be subject to precise identification and DNA analysis.

Vice Defense Minister Shin, who accepted the remains in Hawaii, said, “The acceptance and repatriation of the remains of our soldiers on the 70th anniversary of the Armistice and the ROK-US Alliance is the result of joint ROK-US efforts. This mission honors and remembers our great heroes who defended the freedom of South Korea. The Defense Ministry is committed to the excavation and identification of the remains of fallen Korean War soldiers. We will continue until we find and respectfully inter each one”


  • (Presentation and Follow-on discussion)